The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scotland at standstill as strange white substance falls from sky

Transport links across Scotland have been severely disrupted today by an overnight fall of an unknown substance from the atmosphere. Lying several centimetres deep over much of the country, it has made roads, railways and airport runways dangerously slippery and often impassable. As an emergency interim measure while authorities and scientists struggle to identify the phenomenon, schools have been closed.

The mystery material is initially white in colour, and is said to sometimes resemble salt. Attempts at closer comparison have failed because salt has - also overnight and unexpectedly - disappeared from all retail outlets.

Local sci-fi writer Ken MacLeod, who had to cancel plans to meet his daughter for lunch because of the transport chaos, blamed the lack of preparedness on 'cultural snobbery towards science fiction'.

'I'm not asking for some sort of instant readiness for anything,' he said. 'That would be utopian. But I do think that reading a few catastrophe novels or even watching the odd disaster movie on TV would open minds to the possibility of unprecedented events.'

A source at Edinburgh City Council accused the writer of having his head in the clouds. 'All we can do now is wait for the scientists to come up with something, which could take months. And keep watching the skies.'

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Surely it can't be the same strange white substance we saw a mere 8 months ago?!

Can't be, if it was the authorities would be better prepared. Wouldn't they?

Some years ago, I was trapped by a similar substance in Bangor (Gwynedd, not N Ireland). The white-stuff ploughs were all 'snowed-in' to Harlech. Sigh.

All bus routes from my neighborhood to all other parts of Seattle were cancelled due to the presence of a similar white substance. Global invasion? Pandemic dandruff? This week increased numbers of canines are being treated for salt-induce irritation to their footpads.

Maybe it's that stuff that was falling from the sky at the end of Blood Music. That would be cool.

... strange white/unknown substance ... Lying several centimetres deep ... dangerously slippery and often impassable ... initially white in colour ... is said to sometimes resemble salt ... salt has - also overnight and unexpectedly - disappeared from all retail outlets ...

Well, it's clearly porridge (or porage, if you prefer) - even with the resemblance to salt, if you catch it before you add water. Porridge accounts for the disappearance of retail salt, too.

Snow is starting to disappear from our lives. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said. –The Independent, 20 March 2000

It's not those photons that are so common at warmer latitudes? I thought you got plenty of them in the summer if not the accompanying warmth.

Hey Ken,

My name is Michael Speitel, we had exchanged a couple emails not long ago. I was trying to mail you a question using the address you provide but on both my email accounts it will no longer send them saying "failed". Is there any other way I can get uin touch?


Michael - you could try Ken dot MacLeod at ed dot ac dot uk. I'll also try replying to you again from my other address.

I have heard that budget cuts in Edinburgh are not helping the attempt at dealing with this strange substance.

On the other hand people seem friendlier and more ready to give a hand pushing cars out or digging things up, which is a good thing. I even saw a couple of policemen out on patrol on foot!

I've been away from the country for the past 15 months, living in the tropical paradise of southern Thailand. Suddenly returning to this is like entering an alien landscape; the surroundings bereft of colour, the atmosphere fatal with prolonged exposure and a good 40C colder than I'm used to, the natives smothered in survival suits. Might as well be on the moon...

Salt like substance? Quick get it to Manchester, they'll pay a small fortune for it!

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